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VIDEO: US military’s first Hindu chaplain December 12, 2011

Returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan often struggle with readjusting to civilian life, health issues, and guilt.

Until recently, the 1,000 or so Hindus serving in the US military – and their families – lacked a military confidant who understood their religion and culture.

But now Captain Pratima Dharm has been appointed as the US military’s first Hindu chaplain.

She says her position is significant not just to her military congregation, but also to the religion’s one billion global followers.

Photos: AFP/Getty Images, ThinkStock, and courtesy Pratima Dharm

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US politics live: Herman Cain denies endorsement rumours December 6, 2011

Good morning: Herman Cain may have crashed out of the Republican presidential nomination contest but now the battle begins for his followers, donors and supporters, orphaned by Cain’s decision to drop out.

Cain is said to be holding a press conference at 2pm today – supposedly to announce who he is endorsing – although Cain’s chaotic campaign appears once again to be in two minds about what is actually happening, including whether Cain will endorse anyone and whether the press conference will actually take place at all. So no change there.

In other political news, soi-disant Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich will make a visit to Donald Trump in New York City, as controversy swirls over Trump’s plan to hold a Republican candidates debate in Iowa on 27 December.

And with exactly a month to go until the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich launches his first television ad in the Hawkeye State as a new poll shows him leading, and Mitt Romney suffers a backlash from his “Mittless protection programme” campaign strategy.

10.11am: Now Fox News is quoting “reports” that there will be no Herman Cain endorsement today. Why does that not surprise me?

Donald Trump. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

10.26am: Earlier this morning serial self-publiscist Donald Trump got into a verbal tussle with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that was – how can we put this? – not the highest point in either man’s career.

Part of the issue was Trump’s vanity Republican presidential debate supposedly scheduled for 27 December – although criticism from within the Republican base may mean it never actually happens, which would be a loss to the gaity of the nation.

So far Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul have said they will not appear. Huntsman – who appears to be enjoying a mini-revival – appeared on Fox News just now, and said à propos of Trump’s debate:

I’m not going to kiss his ring, I’m not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy.

That’s not image we need on a Monday morning, Jon Huntsman.

10.34am: Cruel, cynical journalists are pointing out that Newt Gingrich’s meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower is conventiently next door to Tiffany’s. Which could be handy:

In 2005 and 2006, the former House speaker turned presidential candidate carried as much as $500,000 in debt to the premier jewelry company, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

10.43am: Will the Trump debate happen? Karl Rove isn’t happy at the idea, and blasted the concept in a Fox News interview this morning, picked up by Mediaite:

It’s really odd. Here’s a guy [Trump] who is saying, I’m going to endorse one of you and that gives him leverage … more importantly, what the heck are Republicans candidates doing showing up to a debate with a guy who says, ‘I may run for president as an independent’? I think the Republican national chairman should step in and say, we strongly discourage every candidate from appearing….

And anyway, says Karl Rove, nobody will watch a political debate on 27 December.

11am: What is going on in Iowa? This is the most interesting news piece of the day – an excellent Roll Call piece explaining that the 2012 Iowa ground operations are a shadow of the frantic activity that marked 2008:

Presidential candidates have minimally organized their Iowa campaigns — if they’re organizing at all. One month before the Jan. 3 caucuses, Iowa veterans expect one of the most unpredictable, nontraditional caucuses in recent history.

“To be sitting here on Dec 1 with no campaign announcing a 99-county chair organization is mind-boggling,” said Tim Albrecht, a veteran of the caucuses and spokesman for Governor Terry Branstad, who has not endorsed a candidate. “That’s the first thing you check off on your organizational checklist. This is the clearest, most glaring indication of just how wide open the Iowa caucus is at this point.”

Not a single presidential candidate has opened more than one office in the Hawkeye State. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who polls show is a frontrunner in the race, just opened his first Iowa office, a headquarters based in Urbandale.

That is amazing. So here’s my prediction: Ron Paul will win the Iowa caucus on 3 January. You read it here first, or first-ish. The reason being: winning caucuses requires a huge administrative effort: lots of staff, lots of volunteers and lots of effort. From what I can tell, Ron Paul is the only one with all three in Iowa right now.

And also: hats off to Roll Call for doing some reporting on ground, rather than sucking their thumbs in their NYC or DC offices.

11.08am: Quote of the day from the Roll Call reporting on Iowa mentioned below. It comes from Chuck Laudner, said to be a Santorum supporter and “longtime Iowa operative”:

I would remind people that this is a caucus, not a primary. And the caucus is on January 3, after a three-day, federal, drunken holiday.

11.26am: So, Newt Gingrich to be the Republican nominee? Not according to those who know Newt well – such as Republicans who served in Congress under Gingrich’s leadership a million years ago in the 1990s.

Tom Coburn, now the Republican senator from Oklahoma, was first elected to Congress as part of the 1994 wave of “Contract With America” Republicans and served in the House under Speaker Gingrich. He’s unleashed this killer quote:

His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president. I am not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich, having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership.


11.48am: The Daily Beast gets an interview with Ginger White, the former lady friend of Herman Cain. It’s a typically tasteful, restrained piece of Daily Beast reporting:

White said that over the years, her arrangement with Cain took an emotional toll. “One time we were having sex, and I was looking up at the ceiling, thinking about, ‘What am I going to buy at the grocery store tomorrow? What am I going to do with my kids tomorrow?’” she recalled.

12.03pm: Non-career politician (prior to 2001) Mitt Romney likes to boast of his success at Bain Capital as part of his resume as a private sector “job creator”. The Los Angeles Times takes a closer look at Romney’s record there:

Four of the 10 companies Bain acquired declared bankruptcy within a few years, shedding thousands of jobs. The prospectus shows that Bain investors profited in eight of the 10 deals, including three of the four that ended in bankruptcy.

Interesting sidenote, in light of the fact that Herman Cain’s CV highlight was as head of Godfather’s Pizza, is this:

The firm’s largest investment was its 1999 buyout of Domino’s Pizza, into which Bain put $188.8m, eventually reaping a fivefold return.

So after Cain was head of Godfather’s Pizza, Romney was de facto head of Domino’s Pizza? Basically the 2012 Republican nomination was a re-run of the late 1990s pizza wars.

12.21pm: No news on Herman Cain’s endorsement today. The New York Times’s Caucus blog talks to the lonely, orphaned supporters of Herman Cain in Iowa, now floating in political purgatory:

Jeff Jorgensen, the Republican chairman in Pottawattamie County, who endorsed Mr Cain, said the main priority was finding a viable candidate who can defeat Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination.

“We are definitely trying to stop the steamrolling Romney machine,” Mr Jorgensen said. “It’s not that we don’t like him – he’s a formidable candidate. But we don’t think he espouses the conservative values we’d like to see in our nominee.

12.42pm: Here’s that Donald Trump interview-cum-slagfest with dear old Chuck Todd on MSNBC today.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Donald Trump doesn’t take no for an answer. Or Yes. Or anything.

12.55pm: Roll the “breaking news” screen splash: President Obama – remember him? – is to make a statement at 1.30pm ET. We think it’s about a compromise deal with Republicans over the payroll tax. Or it could be to appoint Herman Cain as Secretary of State. Who knows? Actually we know and it’s the former.

1.25pm: While we are waiting on President Obama to do some actual presidenting, here’s Newt Gingrich’s new campaign ad now running in Iowa:

“Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past,” says cuddly Uncle Newt, adding: “I don’t believe that.” Who are these “some people” Newt?

Vanity Fair’s Juli Weiner notes: “the one-minute spot includes a dreamy, vaguely upbeat flute-driven song that sounds identical to the one that plays when Sam returns to the Shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings.”

Insert your own geeky Lord of the Rings reference here comparing Newt to Saruman or something:

Once he was as great as his fame made him. His knowledge was deep, his thought was subtle, and his hands marvelously skilled; and he had a power over the minds of others. The wise he could persuade, and the smaller folk he could daunt.

There’s also a Gladiator reference in there. Anyway, Newt’s wasting his time with LOTR’s references. Everyone knows Ron Paul has got that fanbase sewn up.

1.36pm: Slate’s David Weigel follows up on Senator Tom Coburn’s attack on Newt Gingrich by reading Coburn’s book about the 1994 Republican revolution, Breach of Trust. He finds a few gems of Newtophobia:

Before the government shutdown we thought Newt Gingrich was invincible,” writes Coburn. “After the shutdown, however, he was like a whipped dog who still barked, yet cowered, in Clinton’s presence.

Get that quote into an attack ad, pronto.

1.45pm: Meanwhile, here’s a rocking ad from the Ron Paul campaign, which appears to be aimed at the crucial 15-year-old male demographic:

As the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake notes: “The only thing missing from this Ron Paul ad as Denis Leary as narrator and more Ford trucks.” Indeed. Someone should sue.

2.01pm: So we had the two minute warning for Obama to appear … about 10 minutes ago.

2.08pm: Another two-minute warning for Obama to start speaking at the White House briefing room.

2.10pm: Obama appears, finally. CNN has lost the sound feed.

Obama says he wants to extend the payroll tax cut, to “provide security for middle class families” by adding around $1,000 for the average working family. His jobs package would extend and widen the payroll tax cut, taking the benefit to $1,500 a year – but Republicans won’t join him:

I know there are plenty of Republicans who have sworn never to raise taxes … How come the only time there’s a catch is when it comes to middle class families?

Obama says he is willing to work with Republicans for tax cuts “in a responsible way”. But in a surprise move, it appears the Republican proposals are “irresponsible”. Obama is also calling for extending unemployment insurance for long-term out of work

In what can only be pure coincidence, Obama’s delayed statement happened to coincide with the start of the Newt Gingrich-Donald Trump joint press conference. Fancy.

But even after Obama has finished, Fox News isn’t cutting over to Gingrich/Trump.

2.20pm: Sensible Republican operative Mike Murphy tweets his foreboding about the Donald Trump debate:

GOP candidates would be foolish to show up at Trump’s clown circus/debate. Walk away…

Obviously as a journalist I hope the Trump debate goes ahead. As a human being, not so much.

Herman Cain announcing the suspension of his presidential campaign. Photograph: John Adkisson/Reuters

2.42pm: So Herman Cain will be making no endorsement today, according to the man himself:

I am not endorsing anybody today or in the very immediate future. I can’t say I won’t endorse, but not in the immediate timeframe.

That’s from MSNBC, which listened into a conference call between Cain and his soon-to-be former staff members:

Cain’s plans for the next chapter of his career were quickly followed by an attempt to directly address accusations that he sought to promote his recently-published book while campaigning, or perhaps host a cable news television show in the future.

“That is not my motivation,” he said. “I did not choose to run for the president of the United States to advance my own self.

By the way, Cain sent out an appeal for donations from his supporters the day before “suspending” his campaign.

3.03pm: Currently trending on Twitter – #GOPMuppetHearings:

Mr Grover, who, exactly are the monsters at the end of this ‘book’ that you keep warning us about?

3.18pm: Exciting news for West Wing fans:

Exclusive: The upcoming HBO drama about cable news from The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin finally has a name. TVNewser has learned that HBO is expected to call the series Newsroom.

Sorkin’s series follows fictional cable news anchor Will McCallister (Jeff Daniels) and his “News Night” staff at the fictional cable news channel UBS.

Not sure that the Swiss investment bank UBS will be delighted. Or the BBC’s Newsnight, for that mater. But otherwise: high pressure TV environment … hmm, shades of Studio 60 anyone?

Newt Gingrich hearts Donald Trump. Photograph: Paul Sancya/AP

3.28pm: So Newt Gingrich met Donald Trump today, with Newt making industrial-grade sucking noises to attract Trump’s endorsement, as if that’s of any value.

The two held a press conference – well, they talked into some TV cameras – afterwards, according to AP, where Gingrich defended his decision to take part in Trump’s vanity-debate later this month:

This is a country that elected a peanut farmer to the presidency. This is a country that elected an actor who made two movies with a chimpanzee to the presidency. Donald Trump is a great showman; he’s also a great businessman. I think one of the differences between my party and the other party is we actually go to people who know how to create jobs. We need to be open to new ways of doing things.

For his part Trump defended Gingrich’s recent remarks that poor children should be working part-time cleaning toilets in schools:

I thought it was a great idea. We’re going to be picking 10 young wonderful children and make them ‘apprenti’. We’re going to have a little fun with it.

See, Newt Gingrich? You meet with Donald Trump and all he does is launch a new reality TV show.

3.38pm: Politics in Vermont is always slightly different to the rest of America:

The state of Vermont threw its support Monday behind a folk artist whose T-shirt business is being threatened by the nation’s second largest chicken restaurant chain because of his use of the phrase “eat more kale.”

Governor Peter Shumlin said that state would do all it could to help Bo Muller-Moore raise money to defend his small business, and by extension all Vermont small businesses and local agriculture, against what they both see as “corporate bullying” by the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A.

4.03pm: AP reports that the White House is backing its ambassador to Belgium, accused by some – including Mitt Romney – of downplaying anti-semitism in a recent speech. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said today that Howard Gutman would remain in his post in Brussels.

Here’s the transcript of Gutman’s remarks:

What I do see as growing, as gaining much more attention in the newspapers and among politicians and communities, is a different phenomena. … It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.

It too is a serious problem. It too must be discussed and solutions explored. No Jewish student – and no Muslim student or student of any heritage or religion – should ever feel intimidated on a University campus for their heritage or religion leading to academic leaders quitting in protest. No high school or grammar school Jewish student – and no Muslim high school or grammar school student or student of any heritage or religion – should be beaten up over their heritage or religion.

4.13pm: The National Review also thunders against the Trump debate idea, calling it a “sideshow”:

We had hoped that after the brief and frivolous publicity stunt Trump branded as exploration of a presidential run, there would be no further occasion to rehearse the many ways in which his sometime association with the Republican party hurts the conservative cause. So we’ll keep it brief: Trump is a tax-hike-supporting, missile-defense-opposing, universal-health-care-advocating, eminent-domain abusing, Schumer-Weiner-Rangel-Reid-donating, long-time-pro-choice economic protectionist who in 2008 called George W. Bush “evil” and lauded president-elect Barack Obama as a potentially “great president” who would “lead by consensus.

4.20pm: Oh dear. It appears that former vice president Dan Quayle is endorsing Mitt Romney. Yes, that’ll do it.

Republican officials on Monday told The Associated Press that Quayle plans to announce his support for the former Massachusetts governor Tuesday afternoon.

Romney has an event scheduled Tuesday in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where Quayle has a home.

4.35pm: The National Journal breaks down the latest Gallup poll of the Republican candidates and concludes that only Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich pass the voters’ acceptability threshold, in effect making this a two-horse race from now on:

Romney and Gingrich are the only two candidates that Republican primary voters believe would be acceptable presidential nominees. Gingrich holds a narrow, but significant advantage over Romney on this front, with 61% viewing him as acceptable, with 54% viewing Romney acceptably.

Polling figures can change, as we have seen so far.

5pm: Time to wrap things for the evening – which means Herman Cain will probably endorse Donald Trump for president at 5.01pm ET. In which case, we’ll have to cover it tomorrow when Cain retracts the endorsement and instead backs Hillary Clinton.

And as for Donald Trump: an online Fox News poll found that 31% said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to vote for that candidate.

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Mapping New York’s hidden gems: how crowdsourcing is taking the city back November 9, 2011

Cities are more than concrete and traffic; look a little harder and you can find places to sit, and breathe and escape the world. But sometimes, you have to look really hard.

And that’s what The New York World has been doing for the past two weeks, ever since it went on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show to ask New Yorkers to help find the city’s “privately owned public spaces” – those small patches of indoor and outdoor real estate that property owners have committed to making available for public use. The world has heard of Zuccotti Park, thanks partly to the Occupy protests. But New York is dotted with these beautiful spaces.

Members of Occupy Wall Street sleep in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, New York. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Developers were given valuable exemptions to the city’s zoning rules in exchange for building and maintaining public areas. But building a space and letting the public use it are two different things. Michael Keller, behind the project, says there’s very little enforcement of the “public” part of these privately owned public spaces and equally little data about the shape they’re in. “Some, like Zuccotti Park, are very well maintained, while others, including Dag Hammerskjold Plaza are actually locked up.”

Responsibility for policing these areas falls on the the Department of Buildings, but there’s little evidence this is enforced.

The New York World got the official list of these spaces from the Department of City Planning and asked New Yorkers to check them out, see if they could get in and rate them. (By the way, if you want to get this dataset yourself, says Keller, watch out for some weirdness in the new NYC Socrata-powered data handling system – this dataset was corrupted in the process. “Notice how after “.zip” there’s a bunch of garbage characters. If you delete those characters and then unzip, it will function normally. It’s in Access format. We converted it to a csv, and added “New York, NY” to the address field for geocoding. We also had to spot check and clean up some odd geocoding behavior, which is wont to happen.”)

Bigger version

The result is this crowdsourced map – created using Fusion tables and with a couple of nifty features, including an address finder so people could easily see what sites are near their home or office. “If they’re on a mobile device, we added a GPS locator to make it easy to find nearby spaces. To give people feedback we added the progress bar and we’re sorting the responses to
prepare followup stories on what we find,” says Keller.

They’ve received over 150 submitted comments and 132 unique sites have been visited. “From those comments, we identified places where readers were denied access such finding locked gates or security guards asking for ID and turning people away,” says Keller.

Go to the site today and you will find an elevated acre at 55 Water Street in Lower Manhattan (where summer visitors can take in outdoor movies). But there’s also the Loftus garden at 275 W. 96th Street, which is only open one afternoon a week, leaving visitors to gaze longingly at its verdant website.

Taking the process one step further, the group have looked at city records to go over the details of the land deals and contacted management to ask them about policy when it comes to public use of space. “So far we’ve found some spaces that look like they’re in violation of their agreements with the city to provide this space and as more comments come, the more places we get to look at.”

Crowdsourcing tends to be used for huge datasets, partly to make them more manageable. But this shows how crowdsourcing can create meaningful data anywhere and with any project. And find some beautiful places along the way.

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Occupy Oakland general strike – as it happened November 3, 2011

An undated photo of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who remains in serious condition after he was hit by a police projectile at an Occupy Oakland protest. Photograph: Keith Shannon Photograph: Keith Shannon

12:00pm: Thousands of protesters are expected to gather in Oakland, California, for a general strike and mass day of action in support of the Occupy Oakland movement.

Workers, university students and school pupils are all being urged to rally near the Occupy camp, with banks and large corporations expected to be targeted by marches.

The strike aims to “shut down” the city, culminating with a march to the port of Oakland to prevent the transit of cargo.

Activity is expected to centre on 14th Street and Broadway – where Scott Olsen, a former marine, was hit and seriously injured by a police projectile last week.

Three demonstrations are planned, one at 9am local time (12pm ET), another at noon (3pm ET), and a third at 5pm (8pm ET). There are likely to be other, spontaneous “autonomous actions” – probably marches on banks and large corporations – taking place through the day.

Our reporter Adam Gabbatt is on the scene in Oakland and will be providing live updates. We also have reporters in New York at Occupy Wall Street and will be monitoring developments from other Occupy sites throughout the day.

Anti-war Iraq veterans march to Occupy Wall Street’s camp at Zucotti Park in New York. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

12.04pm: In New York, a veterans’ march in under way. Reporter Ryan Deveraux writes:

Men and women representing each branch of the US military have come together in New York City to stand in solidarity with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement. Dozens of veterans chose to march from the Vietnam veterans memorial in Lower Manhattan to Zuccotti Park – re-named Liberty Square by demonstrators who set up camp there six weeks ago.

Military support for the movement was bolstered last week when Scott Olsen, a US marine who served two tours in Iraq, was critically wounded protesting in Oakland after police fired tear gas canisters and less-than-lethal rounds into the peaceful crowd.

Among those marching today is navy veteran Joshua Shepherd, who was standing next to Olsen when he was injured. The veterans, including men and women who served in a number of conflicts over many generations, began their demonstration using Occupy Wall Street’s signature call and response amplification system, the “human mic”, to declare themselves members of the so-called 99%.

12.34pm: My colleague Adam Gabbatt is in Oakland, and send this dispatch:

About 300 people turned out for the first rally of a day of action in Occupy Oakland.

Demonstrators have called for a general strike in the city, converging around three demonstrations at 9am, 12pm and 5pm, with marches on banks and the Port of Oakland planned throughout the day.

Numbers in the camp swelled overnight ahead of the strike, with all available space at the base of Frank H Ogawa plaza filled.

Among the newcomers was Kyle Vachon, who travelled from Occuy Chico on Tuesday night, arriving at 9pm. He was sitting at the Chico camp when a friend asked if he wanted to attend.

“He was like: ‘Dude, we’re going to Oakland, do you wanna go to Oakland?’,” Vachon said. “Then he said: ‘Get in the car.’”

Vachon travelled down with three others and stayed in a tent overnight. He was planning to march today.

At the 9am rally, protesters gathered in the crossroads at Broadway and 14th, at the corner of Frank H Ogawa plaza and where Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran, was injured during clashes with police on Tuesday 25 October.

In the warm sunshine protesters turned back traffic as they listened to speakers explain the plans for the day.

Occupy Oakland has pledged to march on any banks not supporting the strike – so, all banks – from 2pm, while demonstrators will march to and picket the Port of Oakland from 4pm, bidding to shut down shipping trade for the day.

Cat Brooks, Occupy protester and campaigner for justice for Oscar Grant – the 22-year-old black man killed by Oakland police at a Bart subway station – said the action was about “saying no to the 1% and yes to the 99%”.

“This is a warning, a test, to the 1%. We don’t need them; they need us.”

1.50pm: Here’s more from Ryan Devereaux in New York, watching the march of servicemen and women in support of Occupy Wall Street.

Led by Scott Olsen’s friend, Navy veteran Josh Shepherd, service men and women marched in two-by-two columns along sidewalks through Lower Manhattan.

As the march made its way into the financial district, a police barricade was moved aside and the veterans were allowed to move onto Broad Street. For what seems to be the first time since the demonstrations in New York City began six weeks ago, Occupy Wall Street protesters were allowed onto Wall Street itself.

With six New York City Police Department officers on horseback looking on, the procession paused in front of the New York Stock Exchange. There, Shepherd read a brief statement reiterating the oath members of the armed forces take to defend the US constitution. He then added: “We are here to support the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

At the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, the veterans stopped and observed a moment of silence for Scott Olsen, before passing the financial district’s iconic bull statue.

Turning in the direction of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Liberty Square, the cadence of “Left, left, left, right, left,” was paused by a call-back chant of, “Hold your heads and hold them high, the 99 percent is passing by.”

The veterans arrived to the plaza amid cheers and applause. One young man described the passing troops as his “heroes.”

2.21pm: Back in Oakland, Adam Gabbatt reports that the first of three planned marches of the day is now over. Here’s a picture from earlier:

Occupy Oakland protesters march in the Californian city. Photograph: Adam Gabbatt/

Adam has been to the port of Oakland– there were reports that longshore workers were on strike this morning and trucks were not being let in: this isn’t true. Adam reports: “Everyone I spoke to here says is a longer line than usual, but as a result of workers walking out over safety issue yesterday.”

Cranes are operating, and trucks can be seen moving in and out of the port, Adam says.

2.37pm: This picture gives a sense of the scale of the protest in Oakland today.

Occupy Oakland protesters rally in front of the State of California building. Photograph: Ben Margot/AP

Adam Gabbatt estimates that a crowd of around 1,000 marched through the streets, bringing traffic to a halt. He reports that police appeared content to let the march take place, and did not make any attempt to halt it.

2.48pm: Here’s more detail from Adam Gabbatt in Oakland on the situation at the city’s port.

Rumours were rife this morning that Occupy Oakland’s general strike had scored an early victory by encouraging longshore workers to shut down the Port of Oakland.

Protesters plan to march to the port later today, but were told that it had already been shut by workers refusing to work – apparently as a show of support for the Occupy movement.

I headed down to the port at 10am to check out the rumours. They weren’t true. While there was a backlog of trucks in a line at the port, the line was moving, as were cranes, which were busy loading and unloading containers.

Workers said there was a longer line than usual, but this was due to workers having walked out yesterday over a separate issue relating to safe working practices.

Returning to #OccupyOakland, speakers at the corner of Frank H Ogawa plaza were already backtracking on earlier claims the port had closed, but warning it was only a matter of time.

“Earlier we told you the Port of Oakland was closed. The port of Oakland is not closed… yet,” Clarence Thomas, a Longshore worker at the port, told the 1000 strong crowd.

Another speaker said plans go ahead for a picket of the port this afternoon. Protesters plan to march to the waterfront from 4pm.

There was a police presence at the port at 10.30am, in the form of around 20 officers on motorcycles, but it was unclear if this was in preparation for the Occupy Oakland action.

2.52pm: Adam has been speaking to Emily Yates, a friend of Scott Olsen, who is still in hospital after being hit by a projectile apparently fired by police when they tried to clear the Occupy Oakland camp last week.

Yates is a fellow Iraq war veteran, having served two tours, and along with Olsen is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

She said Olsen had shown his support for the march by liking a post on Facebook. “[The post] said that we’re carrying thoughts of him today at the strike,” Yates said.

Yates added that Olsen was “aware of all the stuff that is happening, and he’s really stoked about it.” Yates is meeting fellow Iraq Veterans Against the War later today and will be part of the march to the Port of Oakland.

Emily Yates, a friend of Scott Oslen, speaks to the Guardian

3.30pm: In New York, Iraq war veterans, who had earlier marched along the sidewalks of Lower Manhattan to Zuccotti Park, have been addressing crowds at the Occupy Wall Street camp. Ryan Devereaux writes:

Gathered at the east end of the park e a young man in an Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirt, and fatigues kicked off a press conference for the demonstrators occupying the plaza.

“My name is Joesph Carter,” he said through the human mic, “I am a two-time Iraq war veteran and this is the only occupation that I believe in.

“For too long our voices have been silenced, suppressed and ignored in favour of the voices of Wall Street and the banks and the corporations. Their money buys them disproportionate influence over the decision-makers in Congress.

“For ten years we’ve been engaged in wars that have enriched the wealthiest one percent, decimated our economy and left our nation with a generation of traumatized and wounded veterans that will require care for years to come.”

4.24pm: In Oakland, another march is under way – this time, writes Adam Gabbatt, a loose confederation of the Oakland education association and general Occupy protesters.

John Robb, from Fairfax, California, managed almost singlehandedly to shut down a Chase bank branch.

“I got here at 10.30am, one my own,” Robb told the Guardian from his position seated in front of the entrance.

“Security kept pushing me away, but I stayed by myself for another 30 minutes. Then someone else arrived, they still pushed us away. Then the big march came past and we called everyone over, they came and the bank locked the doors.”

The march Robb referred to is a loose confederation of the Oakland education association and general Occupy protesters. Since leaving Frank H Ogawa plaza te march has increased to perhaps two thousand strong and is currently encamped outside Bank of America’s HQ.

Some protesters voiced their desire to smash the bank’s windows; other protesters stood in front of the bank and prevented them from doing so.

Occupy Oakland protester John Robb. Photograph: Adam Gabbatt/

5.45pm: Here’s a summary of events today.

Thousands of people have been marching in Oakland, California, where an attempt by police to break up an “Occupy” camp a week ago led to Iraq veteran Scott Olsen suffering a serious head injury. The day has so far passed off with good humour and without trouble. But the protesters’ desire to “shut down” the city with a general strike appear not to have materialised.

Rumours that the Port of Oakland had been shut down by the protests proved unfounded.
There were longer lines at the port after workers walked out yesterday over a separate issue relating to safe working practices. But most workers turned up for work today.

In New York, army veterans have marched through lower Manhattan to the Occupy Wall Street Camp at Zuccotti Park. The march passed off without incident, and veterans have been speaking in support of Olsen and the Occupy movement at Zuccotti Park.

9.30pm: Good evening, we’re re-opening our live coverage of the Oakland general strikes with reports coming through via Reuters that protesters have ”effectively shutdown” Oakland port operations. The Port has issued the following statement:

At this time, maritime operations are effectively shut down at the Port of Oakland. Maritime area operations will resume when it is safe and secure to do so.

10.02pm: Adam Gabbatt has filed this dispatch from the protest march.

Thousands joined the march to shut down the Port Of Oakland, protesters appearing to surprise themselves with the strength of the turn out.

As the march weaved through downtown Oakland it was difficult to assess size, but when protesters walked up the bridge to the port, affording the first opportunity to look back at the crowd, there were gasps and whoops.

The demonstration stretched some 300m, spanning six lanes of traffic, with little to no police presence for the first two hours.

Once inside the port protesters were welcomed by truck drivers hooting horns. The younger and more agile quickly scaled trucks, waving flags as thousands of protesters continued to walk into the main port area.

An impromptu, human mic facilitated, discussion decided the group would split into four groups, each picketing a separate gate or area.

I was with the last group to stop, who only did so when their path towards Bay Bridge – they havent decided yet whether to occupy it – was blocked by a line of 40 police officers in riot gear.

The bulk of the group – perhaps 500-600 people – remained 400m from the police line, chanting “We have achieved what we wanted,” but a trickle of about 30 marched on.

The smaller group stopped in front of the police line, and there was a (peaceful) impasse, before the police left without explanation.

Some 20 people marched on, toward Bay Bridge, while the bulk of the group remained 400m back, in the darkness.

The aim was to prevent Longshore workers getting into the port for the start of their 7pm shift. They seem to have achieved it.

10.16pm: The latest from @occupyoakland on the port shutdown: At port of America with 500 people Port is shut down people picketing in circles and chanting- cops down road are staying put

10.36pm: Here is the full statement from the Port of Oakland – contained within, a request for those marching to allow workers to get home to their families safely.

Oakland, Calif.— November 2, 2011 — At this time maritime operations are effectively shut down at the Port of Oakland. Maritime area operations will resume when it is safe and secure to do so.

Safety, security, respect and dignity for everyone remain of paramount importance. We continue to ask that everyone remain calm, respectful, and safe.

Specifically, we ask that the marchers allow port workers safe passage home. Please allow your fellow 99% to get home safe to their families.

The Port of Oakland is an economic engine: Through our activities and those of our tenants and customers we support over 73,000 jobs in our region and are connected to more than 800,000 jobs nationwide. These are jobs for the 99%.

11.08pm: Adam Gabbatt is now heading back to the main Occupy Camp.

Protesters were in place to blockade the port, in four separate groups, from 6pm. The plan was to block Longshore workers from getting to their 7pm shift, but some got impatient, chanting to “take the [bay] bridge” after hearing erroneous reports that the San Francisco occupy contingent had occupied their side.

The demands were tempered, and most protesters sat and waited – awaiting for confirmation from arbiters at the international Longshore workers union as to whether the port had officially closed. By 8pm this hadn’t come, and the crowd had halved in size.

I’ve just left the port and headed for the main Occupy Oakland camp. The fresh rumour is that there will be a march, or marches, at 10pm. Whether they will be peaceful, like most of the action today, or tainted by the violence that saw Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America all damaged this afternoon, remains to be seen.

11.20am: Police have said a pedestrian, identified by local media as a protester, was struck by a vehicle in downtown Oakland during the march and taken to a local hospital. There are varying reports as to the extent of the person’s injuries, but no official word as yet.

11.33pm: Some more on the situation regarding the protester hit by a car. This piece from the San Francisco Chronicle reports that two people were injured and both appeared to be conscious in hospital.

11.45pm: Following many false reports on twitter that a protester hit by a car had died, Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan confirmed they were taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

12.14am: Time for a summary of the latest this evening.

Police estimated that a crowd of about 3,000 gathered at the Port of Oakland by early evening. Some had marched from the California city’s downtown, while others had been bused to the port.

Occupy demonstrators forced a halt to operations Oakland’s port which is the fifth busiest port in the US, on Wednesday night.

In a statement put out by Oakland Port confirming the closure, officials said maritime area operations would resume “when it is safe and secure to do so.”

Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said the pedestrian hit by a car was taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Coverage is now moving to a new blog. You can follow more Oakland updates on our keyword page here.

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Barbara Kent obituary October 21, 2011

It is in the nature of cinema that an actor who made her last film appearance more than seven decades ago, and who retreated from public view in the late 1940s, refusing photographs and interviews ever since, can still be appreciated on screen as young, as lovely and as fresh as ever. Barbara Kent, who has died aged 103, was one of the last surviving stars of the silent era. She appeared in the last great silent American film, Lonesome (1928), Paul Fejos’s masterpiece of urban poetry. Kent played Mary, a switchboard operator, who meets Jim (Glenn Tryon), a factory worker, in Coney Island. They spend the day together, fall in love, and then lose each other in the crowd. The simple tale of “little people” is raised by the sincerity of the performances and by the director’s expressive use of location, camera movement and montage.

Kent was offered a contract with Universal even though she had never acted before. Photograph: Clarence Sinclair Bull/Getty Images

Unfortunately, Universal Studios, to whom Kent was under contract, insisted on adding three stilted, incongruous talkie sequences to the film to demonstrate the newfangled sound technique. (There was already a music score and sound effects.) Despite allowances made for the crude recording system, Kent’s voice came over as rather tinny and there were fears that she, like other silent screen stars, might fall by the wayside. But with voice lessons, her career survived and she reached the peak of her popularity as Harold Lloyd’s girlfriend in his first two talkies, Welcome Danger (1929) and Feet First (1930).

She was born Barbara Cloutman in Alberta, Canada, and moved to California with her family in her teens. After winning the title of Miss Hollywood 1925, she was immediately offered a contract with Universal, although she had never acted before.

Her first role was as the only woman in Prowlers of the Night (1926), a western directed by Ernst Laemmle, the nephew of Carl Laemmle, the owner of Universal. In the same year, Kent was given fourth billing in Clarence Brown’s Flesh and the Devil, in which she played a 15-year-old girl, hopelessly in love with John Gilbert, who has eyes only for vamp Greta Garbo.

In No Man’s Law (1927), which starred Rex the Wonder Horse and Oliver Hardy in one of his rare non-comic roles as a villain, Kent is very cute, first seen in a pair of oversized pyjamas and then swimming in the “nude”, a scene that caused controversy despite the fact that she was wearing a flesh-coloured bathing suit.

She is the sweet inamorata of a football hero (Richard Barthelmess) in The Drop Kick (1927) and, in Modern Mothers (1928), of a playwright (Douglas Fairbanks Jr), who returns to her after a fling with her mother. Lonesome gave Kent a further boost, and she appeared in William Wyler’s The Shakedown (1929), a touching drama once thought lost and only recently rediscovered and restored, about a girl (Kent), a prize fighter and an orphan boy.

Kent entered the sound era in Welcome Danger. When they first meet, Kent, with her hair tucked back, in overalls trying to fix her broken-down car, is mistaken by Lloyd for a boy. Playing along, she later reveals her femininity, and they fall in love. Kent again showed her mischievous streak in Feet First, in which she is a secretary whom Lloyd, as a lowly clerk, mistakes for his boss’s daughter.

In Leo McCarey’s Indiscreet (1931), which the director himself described as lousy, Kent was effective as Gloria Swanson’s sister. She was an adequate Amelia Sedley in an inadequate, updated adaptation of Vanity Fair in 1932 and exuded kindness as Rose Maylie in the first talkie version of Oliver Twist, in 1933.

In 1932 she married Harry Edington, an agent who was to become, for a short period, an executive producer at RKO. When she saw herself slipping down the credits, she retired in 1935, aged 28. After Edington died in 1949, Kent married Jack Monroe, an engineer. Monroe died in 1998. Towards the end of her life, Kent lived in a retirement home in Sun Valley, Idaho, where most of her friends and neighbours were unaware that she was once a Hollywood star.

• Barbara Kent (Barbara Cloutman), actor, born 16 December 1907; died 13 October 2011

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Martin Luther King finally honoured in Washington after 43 years October 16, 2011

In 1968 the African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha had a dream. It would build a monument in Washington DC to honour one of its members who had been gunned down just weeks before as he stood on a motel balcony in Memphis.

It may have taken 43 years, and several bitter controversies, but on Sunday that dream was finally realised.

Tens of thousands of people, mainly African Americans, from all over the US gathered at the National Mall in the centre of the capital under a cloudless autumn sky to see the official dedication of the memorial to Martin Luther King Jr.

“We honour this man because he had faith in us,” President Barack Obama told the crowd. “That is why he is on this mall, because he saw what we might become.”

Obama said that the monument marked “a black preacher, of no official rank or title, who somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and our most lasting ideals; a man who stirred our conscience and thereby made our union more perfect”.

Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The nine-metre statue of King, hewn from a huge block of granite, is the first monument to a non-president or a black person on the mall or surrounding parks.

It stands on Washington’s tidal basin, close to the Lincoln memorial where King made his famous “I have a dream” speech on 28 August 1963. The dedication was meant to have taken place on the anniversary of that day this August, but Hurricane Irene put paid to that.

Obama paid tribute to King’s famous address, saying that without it “we might not have had the courage to have come as far as we have”.

The speech inspired the memorial’s design, particularly the line: “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope”.

Visitors to the monument pass through two massive jagged blocks – the mountain of despair – before they come to the statue of King, his arms crossed, that represents the stone of hope.

It was designed by artist Lei Yixin, the subject of one of the most heated controversies surrounding the monument. Black artists, many of whom struggle to find commissions, asked why the job had been given to a Chinese sculptor, with the work carving out the granite largely carried out in China.

There was also controversy over the inscription: “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.” That is a boiled down version of comments made by King at his Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta two months before he was assassinated: “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice.”

Maya Angelou, the African American author and poet, ridiculed the bastardised quotation, saying that “it makes Dr Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit”.

The ceremony brought together several of King’s close relatives, including his sister Christine King Farris and his youngest child Bernice King.

John Lewis, the only surviving speaker of the ten including King who addressed the 1968 March on Washington, also gave a speech on Sunday.

Attendees emphasised both King’s historic role and the importance of his message today. Al Sharpton, the Harlem-based activist, said: “This is not a monument of times past, this is not a memorial to someone who has passed into history, this is a marker for the fight for justice today and a projection of the fight for justice in the future.”

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Steve Jobs: the 10 best tributes October 6, 2011

Stanford commencement address 2005

Steve Jobs’ address to Stanford in 2005

Jobs urged Stanford graduates to, as the university put it, “pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks – including death itself”. He said:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Gallery of Steve Jobs tributes, the Guardian

A memorial for Steve Jobs at the Apple campus in Cupertino, California. Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Gallery of shrines to Steve Jobs from around the world, curated by the Guardian.

Walt Mossberg: the Steve Jobs I knew

The Wall Street Journal’s veteran technology writer Walt Mossberg reminisces about his personal relationship with the Apple boss. He talks about his meetings with Jobs, the personal briefings about new products, and how Jobs would call him at weekends:

They turned into marathon, 90-minute, wide-ranging, off-the-record discussions that revealed to me the stunning breadth of the man. One minute he’d be talking about sweeping ideas for the digital revolution. The next about why Apple‘s current products were awful, and how a color, or angle, or curve, or icon was embarrassing.

After the second such call, my wife became annoyed at the intrusion he was making in our weekend. I didn’t.

The best Steve Jobs anecdote

Jobs was patiently answering questions to members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ hi-tech club, at the home of a student shortly before returning to Apple in 1996. One of the students asked him to autograph his keyboard:

Steve Jobs said he’d do it, but only if first he could remove all the unnecessary keys that his successors had added in a foolish effort to make the Mac more like a Microsoft-Intel PC. He despised the long row of so-called function keys (like “F1″) and the cluster of navigational arrow keys which were clunky alternatives to the more intuitive process of using a mouse to explore menus and icons. So Jobs pulled his car keys out of his pocket and began scooping into the computer keyboard, violently disgorging all the keys that offended him.

Alan Deutschman, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, 2001

Boing Boing tribute

BoingBoing tribute to Steve Jobs

Boing Boing, the group technology blog, takes inspiration from one of the early Apple innovations: the Mac Classic “desktop” screen.

View from the creative industry

“It’s not too much of a stretch to call Steve Jobs the father of the modern creative class,” says this piece on the website of Contagious magazine, by digital designer Dave Skaff.

The New York Times gallery of reader pictures

New York Times gallery of Steve Jobs reader tributes

The New York Times asked its readers to submit pictures inspired by Apple and Steve Jobs. The result is an enchanting collection of images, from family snaps with early Apple products to pictures of cats on Macs.

Former Gizmodo editor Brian Lam on his fallout with Jobs

Ahead of the launch of the iPhone 4, a prototype found its way into the hands of Brian Lam, who was then editor of the tech website Gizmodo. It led to a spectacular falling out between Lam and Jobs; here, Lam describes how the episode made him lose his faith in his own writing, and how he eventually apologized to Jobs.

I just feel lucky I had the chance to tell a kind man that I was sorry for being an asshole before it was too late.

The best obituary

The New York Times version is extensive and comprehensive; the Guardian’s Jack Scholfield controversially raises the fallout between Jobs and his best friend Steve Wozniak over a few thousand dollars; but this piece on the AV Club website has been described as “unexpectedly the best one I’ve read” on Twitter.

It’s written by Sean O’Neal, who says he was a “shitty Apple tech support technician”.

More than just a designer of personal computers, Jobs was in many ways a designer of modern life. His belief that technology should above all be user-friendly forever changed the methods in which we work, communicate, enjoy our entertainment, and even create our own innovations.

The Apple tribute

The Apple website tribute to Steve Jobs

Apple turned over the front page of its website to a simple, classy tribute to its founder.

One more thing …

[View the story "Steve Jobs Dies: Apple Employees React" on Storify]

The Daily Beast website curated this Storify of tweets by Apple employees.

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US politics live blog: Election calendar chaos for Republican candidates September 30, 2011

10.30am: Today’s theme is uncertainty: uncertainty over whether New Jersey governor Chris Christie is a presidential candidate, uncertainty over when and where the Republican presidential primaries will take place, and uncertainty over whether the GOP’s grassroots even like any of the candidates on offer:

• Christie: Since making his quasi-presidential speech on Tuesday night there has been no word from the man himself about whether or not he’s a candidate. Even his father says he doesn’t know. But “sources” say he is “considering” a run – although other “sources” say he isn’t.

• Primary calendar: Florida‘s Republicans are said to be moving up their state’s primary to the end of January – up-ending the carefully constructed schedule of elections that the national Republicans had constructed. The net result will be another shambles as in 2008, with Christmas and New Year in Iowa for the GOP candidates.

• Frontrunner?: But who will Republicans be voting for? After Rick Perry‘s debate disaster last week, the latest opinion polls show no clear picture of who the Republican favourite is, with Mitt Romney and Perry closely matched and businessman Herman Cain gaining ground.

In summary: Ron Paul to win Republican nomination after “Super Thanksgiving” primary in November 2011.

In other news, Herman Cain told CNN that African Americans are “brain-washed” into supporting the Democratic party, comments that are unlikely to prove popular with African Americans.

Iowa City in winter. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

10.53am: One of the mysteries of US politics that outsiders don’t understand is how weak the two political parties are, compared to their European counterparts. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are loose coalitions of state organisations reinforced by the primary system, in which elections are organised (and paid for, largely) at individual state level.

As a result, state parties can choose their own method and timing of primaries. Traditionally, Iowa and New Hampshire have gone first – a hallowed tradition that dates all the way back to 1976 – but other states realise that the earlier a state’s primary is held, the more influential it is.

The 2008 primary calendar saw near chaos as several states, including Florida and Michigan, edged their dates forward, with Iowa and New Hamshire retaliating. The outcome was the Iowa caucuses kicked off on 3 January.

Party leaders vowed to stop a similar result in 2012, and the Republican National Committee set up a strict structure with four states voting in February to push the calendar back.

The RNC’s deadline for state primary dates is this Saturday – and now Florida says it will decide tomorrow on moving its primary to January 28 2012, which would inevitably set off a shuffling forward by the others, and end with … Iowa holding its caucus just after New Year’s Day. In conclusion: d’oh!

11.21am: Here’s a full and excellent explanation of the primary calendar chaos, by National Journal’s Reid Wilson:

Despite the best efforts of both the RNC and DNC, the 2012 calendar remains in largely the same situation as the 2008 calendar, with a host of states rushing toward the front of the line, disrupting holidays and threatening to bleed over into the previous year. The harsh threats of stiff sanctions against wayward states have deterred no one.

In fact, the only harm to come from the whole squabble has been to the parties themselves. Their grasp over the presidential nominating system has been shown to be weak, and their threats cast aside as inconsequential. The constituent states the parties represent, in effect, have cast off party leadership. Governing requires the consent of the governed, and the governed no longer follow the governors.

11.47am: More on Herman Cain’s remarks last night. Here’s what he told Wolf Blitzer on CNN, after being asked “Why is the Republican party poison, basically, for so many African Americans?”:

Because many African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative. So it’s just brainwashing and people not being open-minded, pure and simple.

Brain-washed? asked Wolf. Cain replied:

For two-thirds of them, Wolf, that is the case. Now the good news is I happen to believe that a third to 50% of black Americans in this country are open-minded, I meet them every day, they stop me in the airport.

So African Americans are brain-washed into voting for Democrats, except for the 50% of them that aren’t. Given that about 85% of African Americans typically voter Democrat, by Cain’s numbers even 70% of the non-brainwashed African Americans also vote Democrat.

As they say on the internet: fail.

12.08pm: Funnily enough, there was another Republican presidential contender who hurt himself over in a “brainwashing” controversy:

It’s George Romney, the then governor of Michigan, who was a leading contender for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. And then in this interview he claimed he was “brainwashed” into supporting the war in Vietnam.

Hmmm: Romney, presidential campaign, flip-flopping on a major issue … yes, it’s Mitt Romney’s dad. Seriously.

The remark finished Romney’s chances and America rejoiced by electing Richard Nixon.

12.34pm: The New York Post has “sources” saying that Chris Christie being urged to run by Henry Kissinger, George Bush and Nancy Reagan – and that his announcement may come next week:

After months of hedging, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is giving serious thought to jumping into the ring for a GOP presidential run – and could make his decision next week, The Post has learned.

The announcement may come as soon as Monday, said sources familiar with Christie’s thinking.

The renewed consideration about a White House run came after prodding this week from some Republicans he idolizes, including former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former President George W Bush, sources said.

Henry Kissinger! That’s the Republican youth vote in the bag.

Donald Rumsfeld says: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, they are all dangerous. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

12.49pm: Here’s some news: Donald Rumsfeld is to appear on Al Jazeera being interviewed by David Frost on Friday night, despite the former US defence secretary once describing the network as “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” for its coverage of Iraq. Still, times change and so forth.

Al Jazeera have sent out some choice quotes from the interview, including this intriguing line:

Responding to a question on his previous reported comments about the “imperfectly” named War on Terror, Mr Rumsfeld described radical Islam as a danger equal to the way that “extremism in Christianity or extremism in Judaism is a danger.”

“Extremism in Judaism”? What does that mean? We’ll just have to watch the whole thing to find out.

1.01pm: More from Donald Rumsfeld’s interview on Al Jazeera, after being asked by Sir David about the US prison at Guantanamo:

Of course no one wanted it in the first place. The Bush administration didn’t want it and the Obama administration campaigned against it and yet it’s there. Why? Well it’s an exceedingly well run prison.

So say what you like about Guantanamo, it’s exceedingly well run.

1.19pm: My Guardian colleague Ana Marie Cox theorises that front-loading the Republican primaries in early 2008 will help Willard Mitt Romney, as opposed to James Richard Perry:

Of course, Romney is the “eat your vegetables” candidate (as the New York Times has it today), he’s a Mormon. He’s also as boring as starch, and as guaranteed to linger around in your system. This is why his best hope for the nomination is to grind out the somewhat flashier competition, allowing Perry to dangle from his own blowzy rhetoric and the underdogs to suffocate from a lack of funding.

Because that worked so well for Hillary Clinton in 2008. But still, it’s a good point.

1.39pm: Here is some actual reporting about the real difficulty Chris Christie faces if he does want to run for the Republican nomination: the legal barriers to getting on the primary ballot in all 56 states and territories.

The excellent Erin McPike of Real Clear Politics looks at the hurdles and concludes that a Christie campaign would need to get a move on:

Election lawyers, however, say it’s still possible for a late-entering candidate, such as Christie or Sarah Palin, to get ballot access in each state and territory.

“I do believe you can spend a lot of money to go through the process quickly, but the window to do that is starting to close,” said a high-profile election lawyer in Washington.

Here is why: Florida’s deadline is just around the corner, with Georgia and South Carolina right behind it on Nov 1. Missouri’s is Nov 11, and New Hampshire’s is Nov 18. Illinois has a Dec 5 deadline that requires the submission of 5,000 signatures.

1.47pm: The big news for the Republican race for the next few days will be the third-quarter fundraising numbers by each candidate – and the usual round of leaks and expectation-setting is starting to dribble out.

The Boston Globe reports today:

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is on pace to raise between $11m and $13m for the latest fund-raising quarter, a haul that would be much lower than the $18.2m haul he brought in during the previous three months, according to a source familiar with the campaign’s finances.

Romney’s strong performance in a trio of recent debates had helped his fund-raising by motivating his existing supporters, but it was not enough to move some of the fence-sitters over to his camp, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the campaign has not publicly released its numbers yet.

We’ll see. Alternatively, look at some smoke through this mirror.

2.06pm: Why don’t Republicans feel excited about Mitt Romney? The Washington Post has an answer from Craig Shirley, an conservative political adviser:

Have you ever heard the old joke about how they had the emergency meeting at the dog-food company?” he asked.

“The president pounds the table saying, ‘We have the best marketing plan. We have the best labeling, the best delivery system, the best factory. Why aren’t we selling more dog food?’ There’s a long pause and a lowly executive says in a small voice, ‘Dogs don’t like it.’

Michele Bachmann: money troubles. Photograph: Hans Deryk/Reuters

2.21pm: Is Michele Bachmann’s campaign in bigger trouble than anyone realises? On Republican fundraising, the Boston Globe also reveals:

Representative Ron Paul, the Texas Republican, is planning to report at least $5m, according to campaign manager Jesse Benton. Representative Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican, is not planning to announce her figures before the Oct 15 filing deadline, according to spokeswoman Alice Stewart.

“Not planning to announce her figures” before the last possible moment? (15 October is the filing deadline for the Federal Elections Commission, which publishes campaign spending and fundraising.) That’s a sign that fundraising hasn’t been going well. And there is plenty of talk that Bachmann’s fundraising operation has collapsed. According to Politico:

“Dire” was the word one source said to describe her fundraising, which another source said would be less than the combined $4 million she reported in the second quarter – $2 million of it in low-dollar fundraising over fewer than six weeks, and another $2 million transferred from her congressional account.

And the New York Post’s Page Six (not an entirely reliable source of political news) has rumours of suppliers not being paid:

Will Michele Bachmann make it to Iowa? Insiders are whispering that the Tea Party darling’s financials are grim and she may be out of the race before she makes it to the Iowa caucus in February, even though she has a strong base in the state.

2.42pm: Rick Perry’s debate performances appear to have hit him hard, based on a new poll by Fox News.

The poll showed Perry dropping 10 percentage points among Republican voters, from 29% at the end of August to 19% a little over three weeks later. But the recipient wasn’t Romney – he stayed little changed, with 22% in August and 23% in September. The beneficiaries were Herman Cain, who jumped from 11% to 17%, and Newt Gingrich, up 8 points to 11%.

Michele Bachmann had won support from 13% in early August, but now notched a mere 3%. Ouch.

In all that’s bad news for Romney: he hasn’t benefitted from his debate confrontations with Perry. And when pollsters asked the voters “Which one of the Republican presidential candidates do you have the most in common with?” only 12% said Romney compared with 17% for Perry and 14% for Cain. That’s the “dog food” effect.

One caveat: the poll had a tiny sample size of just 363 primary voters.

3.04pm: More bad news for Rick Perry today in a poll from Florida – site of the last two debates. PPP found that Perry would struggle in a general election against Barack Obama.

In fact, Obama leads all of the Republican presidential contenders, although Ron Paul and Mitt Romney were just one percentage point behind Obama.

3.24pm: Herman Cain might struggle to get the conservative National Review vote:

Based on my single encounter with Mr Cain, at a meeting with National Review’s editors, I would have hesitated to hire him to run a pizza company, much less the country.

The NRO’s Kevin Williamson also rips into what he calls “The wild world of Cainonomics”:

Other than his pie-in-the-sky growth assumptions, my least favorite thing about Herman Cain is that his response to every challenge is to appoint a committee of smart guys to do the right thing. He seems incapable of appreciating the fact that moral failing is not the only reason Washington fails to do the right thing.

3.35pm: Ah Michele Bachmann – here’s a clip of her blaming the “Arab spring” on Barack Obama because of his undermining of Israel.

Likening Obama to Jimmy Carter’s failure to “have the back of the Shah of Iran” and so allow the rise of “radical jihad,” Bachmann told an audience in New Hampshire:

So too under Barack Obama, we saw him put a lot of daylight between our relationship with our ally Israel. And when he called on Israel to retreat to its indefensible 1967 borders, don’t think that message wasn’t lost on Israel’s 26 hostile neighbours.

You want to know why we have an Arab spring? Barack Obama has laid the table for an Arab spring by demonstrating weakness from the United States of America.

Uh. Michele Bachmann and the facts have a difficult relationship. Leaving aside her thesis, such that it is, it is worth recalling that Obama’s call for the 1967 borders to be used as the basis for a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine came in May this year, a long time after the protests were underway in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere.

3.56pm: The ever-charming Newt Gingrich shows why he is so deeply loved by voters, in answering a question from the Los Angeles Times’s Seema Mehta:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, after unveiling a 21st Century Contract with America in an attempt to breathe life into his presidential bid, grew churlish when asked how his fundraising was going in advance of a key deadline.

“See, I knew you couldn’t resist. I’m not going to answer you,” Gingrich said, speaking to reporters in an auditorium at Principal Financial Group. “You should really go home and think about why you would even ask that today.”

4.15pm: The Perry campaign have been pumping out attacks on Mitt Romney’s past positions and flip-flops.

In particular they have found a couple of embarrassing edits that Romney made to his book, No Apology, between the hardcover and the paperback editions:

Yesterday, Perry aides focused on Romney’s statement in the hardcover version of No Apology that aspects of the [Obama] administration’s economic stimulus program would “accelerate the timing of the start of the recovery.”

That passage was replaced in the paperback edition with the comment that the stimulus “has been a failure.”

“Governor Romney is Obama-lite – supporting the stimulus, government-mandated health care, and federal intervention into schools – but when his liberal positions are discovered, he flips with ease,” said another Perry spokesman, Mark Miner.

4.30pm: The front page of Rick Perry’s website currently contains this subtle message:

Our goal is 18,000 donations by September 30th — the same number of jobs that RomneyCare killed before it became ObamaCare and was forced on the American people.

5pm: And finally, bad news for Chris Christie:

Zack Martini, the 11-year-old from Springfield, NJ who asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for guidance about how to win a seat on the sixth grade council, lost the student election Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, the results from the election didn’t go our way,” Zack’s father, Ed Martini, told The Ticket. “Zack is disappointed he didn’t win but he wishes the new president, Zoe Frie, the best of luck.”

At a town hall meeting in Union Township earlier this month, Zack asked Christie for “tips” about how to run his campaign for the student council. The governor responded with four pieces of advice: Make colorful signs, ask people for your vote, find friends to campaign for you, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

How can you lose an election with an awesome name like Zack Martini?

We’ll be back tomorrow watching the Florida GOP take an axe to the primary calendar.

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GOP presidential candidates debate in Orlando September 23, 2011

Welcome to our live coverage of the GOP presidential debate tonight in Orlando, Florida, before an audience of 3,500 Republicans baying for blood – someone’s blood.

The debate itself kicks off at 9pm ET (2am BST) on Fox News – the late start time presumably so as not to get in the way of X Factor, although Project Runway fans have no such luck.

For a quick summary of what’s at stake – in the debate, not X Factor – here’s a preview I wrote earlier:

Debate fatigue may be setting in but tonight’s encounter could see more fireworks. In the previous debates this month Rick Perry found himself in the unaccustomed role of punching bag, as the other candidates took turns on assailing his positions on social security, immigration and the HPV vaccine in Texas.

Expect Perry to come out fighting this time around, as he has done when winning three bitterly-contested gubernatorial primaries in Texas. In particular he is likely to target Romney, his nearest rival in what the opinion polls show to be a two-horse race.

The Romney-Bot 2000 protocol droid greets humanoid supporters before the debate in Orlando. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

If that’s still not enough, then knock yourself out by reading our live blogging of last week’s debate in Tampa.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments box below, as always.

8.01pm: Just when you think it’s safe to ignore Sarah Palin – she leaps back in, demanding attention.

The Des Moines Register reports that Palin supporters have just received teasing letters from the former Alaskan governor’s staff:

Alaska Republican Sarah Palin is “on the verge of making her decision of whether or not to run for office” – and her backers should write a check right away, a letter from her political action committee says.

The Sept 20 letter from SarahPAC treasurer Tim Crawford says: “It’s one of the most difficult and important decisions of her life. And I want her to know that she has our support.”

It also notes the donations could be used to support other conservative candidates. “Send your best, one-time gift to SarahPAC today,” it says.

What to make of that, I don’t know. Except that if she pops up during this debate, don’t faint. Maybe she’ll come out of the audience, like one of those pro-wrestling “surprise” matches where the arch-rival jumps into the ring wearing a suit.

Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson. Photograph: Richard Shiro/AP

8.05pm: By the way, there will be nine candidates on stage tonight. Alongside the usual suspects (Perry, Romney, Bachmann, Paul) the no-hopers (Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain), the negative-hoper (Rick Santorum), there will also be former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

Ana Marie Cox profiles Johnson as “the most plausible GOP candidate you’ve never heard of”:

As the former governor of New Mexico, he’s won state-wide office – unlike Ron Paul (or Michele Bachmann, or Herman Cain). And unlike Rick Santorum, he’s won a state-wide election more than once (he served two terms). Unlike Rick Perry or Mitt Romney, he reduced the size of the state government he oversaw.

8.14pm: Since Rick Perry has been taking all the punishment in the last 900 debates, is it time for Mitt Romney to feel some GOPain over his Romneycare health model?

Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller reads Ron Suskind’s new unfictional account of life in the Obama administration, and notes this dirty little secret from page 206:

[White House chief health care official Nancy-Ann DeParle] directed Obama’s attention to the only working model for reform in the country: Massachusetts, whose health care overhaul bill passed in 2005 under a brokered deal between then-governor Mitt Romney and the state’s Democratic legislature.

But that was the Old Mitt Romney. The New Mitt Romney hates healthcare.

Tea Party member Kay Alfonso listens to speakers during a pre-debate rally in Orlando. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

8.25pm: Wouldn’t it be awesome if Fox News was live-streaming the Republican debate? Well, they are.

Don’t be scared by the blonde lady speaking, that’s just Dana Perino and she can’t hurt you.

8.30pm: By the way, this debate is sponsored by Fox News and Google – now there’s a terrifying combination. Anyway, Google and YouTube are also live-streaming the debate. So you have choice, as befits America.

8.35pm: If you’re looking for the X Factor live-blog, close but no cigar (although this is a kind of reality TV). My magnificent colleague Hadley Freeman is blogging it live-style over here.

8.38pm: Long-shot Ron Paul is taking this nomination business very seriously. This time around he’s even running some extremely good conventional bio-ad slots, such as this one:

Proving once again that Vietnam is still not dead as a political issue in America. In any case, it’s a very different approach by the Paul campaign.

The subtext here is that Ron Paul has been getting flak for his militant non-interventionist position, which includes bring all the US troops home from everywhere.

8.50pm: Rick Perry got a big endorsement today, from former senator and current governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback:

“I have known and worked with Rick Perry for over twenty years. He is the right leader for this moment in history,” said Gov Brownback. “Now more than ever, America needs a President who knows how to create jobs and stop Washington’s runaway spending. Rick Perry balanced budgets in tough economic times, signed the largest tax cut in state history and helped Texas become the national leader in job creation. On the most important issues of our time, his record of leadership serves as a blueprint for America’s renewal.”

Brownback is firmly in the socially conservative wing of the GOP, and carries some weight.

9.01pm: Here we go – and the candidates are being introduced by Fox News’s Bret Baier.

Were there boos for Newt Gingrich? Sounded like it. Anyway, a noisy crowd tonight, all 3,500 of them. Exciting.

And the sound to alert candidates that their time is up is the Gchat “boop” – provided by Google – which might be kind of annoying. But dog owners complained that the last warning sound was a door bell, which set the dogs barking. So if your dog is on Gchat, bad luck.

9.03pm: First question, about jobs and small businesses, to Rick Perry. His answer is, basically: “Texas, woo!” Well, not much more than that:

If it’ll work in the state of Texas, it’ll work in Washington.

But tell us the details Rick Perry? asks Baier. My jobs plan is Texas, says Perry.

The gag about Rudy Giuliani was that his answer to everything was “a noun, a verb and 9/11″. Perry skips the verb and goes straight to “Texas”.

9.06pm: Romney is asked why the Wall Street Journal said his jobs plan is rubbish. Romney ignores this and complains about Obama. “My list goes on and my 59 points,” says Romney. Oh yes, the 59 points.

9.08pm: Now it’s Michele Bachmann, asked about a non-question she failed to give in the last debate, about how much people should be taxed.

Bachmann’s answer is that “If people make money it’s their money,” and wishes should could have said last time that people should keep everything they earn. Eh?

She then says that there has to be taxes … which doesn’t actually make any sense given her previous answer. So people should keep all the money they earn. Except for the taxes.

Thank you Michele Bachmann. The crowd seems puzzled.

9.10pm: Now it’s “Mr One Per Cent Poll Rating,” also known as Rick Santorum, speaking. Meh.

9.11pm: Would Newt Gingrich extend unemployment benefits? Newt says they should be signed up for a training programme. Which would obviously be free and cost the federal government nothing, right? Good luck with that.

Members of the audience at the Republican presidential debate tonight. This is a real photograph. Where do they find these people? Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

9.16pm: Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain are given their 15 seconds of non-fame. Something, something, something.

In these debates, whenever anyone says something rude about Mitt Romney, Romney starts his reply: “That’s fine…”

9.18pm: Offered an open goal on the 10th amendment (states rights), Ron Paul says that the federal government shouldn’t do anything at all. Big cheers.

Now it’s Gary Johnson, who mentions that he started as a “one-man handyman” in 1974 and grew to 1,000 employees.

“I think I vetoed more bills than any governor in the history of the United States,” says Johnson, who notes that he has only ever run for office twice: once to be governor of New Mexico and once for re-election. (What do you think you are doing now, Gary Johnson? Chopped liver?)

9.21pm: Ad break already?

Before the break the moderators show one of those new-fangled “word clouds,” about immigration. Right in the middle is one big word: illegal.

9.27pm: We’re back and it’s Rick Perry on social security – and he uses it to take a shot at Mitt Romney for something, I don’t quite follow this, about social security in Massachusetts.

Romney is saying that there’s another Rick Perry out there saying other things about social security. “You better find that Rick Perry,” says Romney.

“Speaking of books,” says Perry – and points out changes Romney made between the hardback and paperback editions of his book about his healthcare proposals, in the hardback saying that this was what America needed.

Romney says “I stand by what I said in my book.” But which book, Mitt? The Kindle edition? The Spanish audio version?

9.31pm: Another question for Romney, who is very slick. “I only spent four years in government. I didn’t inhale.”

The trouble is, he doesn’t actually say anything, other than “I believe in America.” If you thought Mitt Romney was a slippery bastard, there’s nothing he says in these debates that makes you think otherwise.

You know who else sounded good without really answering a question? Hillary Clinton.

9.34pm: Asked which government department he’d like to abolish, Herman Cain says: the Environmental Protection Agency, “it’s out of control”. Apparently it’s trying to regulate dust. Mmm.

9.35pm: “Next Thursday in Des Moines I’m going to unveil a 21st century contract for America,” says Newt Gingrich.

Next Thursday? Oh no, I’m busy next Thursday, I’m … busy.

9.37pm: Gary Johnson seems like a reasonable, nice guy, even when he says he’s going to cut the federal budget by 43% and abolish the Department of Education.

9.38pm: Rick Santorum says that parents are forced to turn over control of their children to the government.

Oh no, I got a real Gchat “boop” and thought that Newt Gingrich was blathering on too long. Now the dog’s barking.

9.40pm: Perry is now bashing Romney again, blaming him for backing Obama’s “race to the top” education programme.

“Nice try,” smirks Mitt. He really is being a prick.

The moderators come back at him, asking: “Did Governor Perry say something that wasn’t true?” “I’m not sure,” says Romney, who is fumbling a bit – but the moderators fail to go back to Perry, sadly.

This Gchat “boop” is starting to be annoying due to my Pavlovian reaction. Is it the editor pinging me or is it just Jon Huntsman going over time?

9.44pm: “By the way, everyone likes the new sound?” asks Bret Baier. No, Bret. We don’t.

9.45pm: Immigration! “I would build a wall on every yard, every foot of the border,” says Michele Bachmann. Again, that would cost nothing, right?

9.47pm: Oh god, Newt Gingrich on using electronic verification for illegal immigration. “We would be far better to outsource e-Verify to Mastercard, Visa or American Express, because they are used to dealing with fraud,” says Newt Gingrich. Yes, yes, and credit card companies never get defrauded, right?

9.49pm: Now Romney is offered another chance to smack Perry over in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants in Texas, a rare liberal (ish) policy, supported by that crazy left-winger George Bush.

According to Mitt, millions of illegal aliens are coming to America solely to get in-state tuition fees at the University of Texas.

“I feel pretty normal being criticised by these folks,” says Perry, giving a stern response:

If you say that we should not educate children that have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought here by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.

Good answer. Which will go down like a cup of cold sick with many GOP voters.

Then, Rick Santorum tries to butt in to his own question, which has to be a first. Santorum accuses Perry of being soft on immigration and American sovereignty. Santorum gets a bit shouty here, which isn’t pretty, with the shiny red face and spittle.

9.57pm: Based on that last “debate,” it says everything about the state of the Republican party today that Rick Perry is accused, with a straight face. of being a flaming liberal.

At this point, the only person pure enough to be the Republican nominee is a 10-year-old child living in Tibet. Probably not a US citizen though.

10pm: Another ad break! Did you know Rick Perry is friends with Russell Crowe? I’m not sure that’s a good thing:

Perry was serving as agriculture commissioner in the ’90s when he first met Crowe, whose brother had approached the state about an agriculture project.

“The governor met Crowe, who has a ranch in Australia, and they talked about farming and ranching, and they developed a friendship that has continued over the years,” a Perry spokeswoman told the Austin American-Statesman in 2003.

10.03pm: Next question is on Israel. This will no doubt be a balanced, scholarly debate, weighing the geo-political … no, it’s love-making to Israel time.

Hey, Herman Cain has met someone from Israel. Here’s what Cain told him: “If you mess with Israel, you’re messing with the United States of America.”

10.06pm: Rick Perry also wants to make love to India, by giving it romantic gifts of flowers and F-16s.

Ana Marie Cox notes:

Rick Perry just answered a question about foreign policy using complete sentences and with appropriate hand gestures. So he passes.

10.07pm: I’m glad Rick Santorum is still in the debates. It gives me time for a break when he’s talking.

10.09pm: “When are we going to have someone in the White House who’s going to stand up to these countries and say, you’re not getting any more of our money,” asks a questioner via YouTube. Kind of rhetorical really.

Memo to everyone: America doesn’t actually give that much money to anyone.

10.11pm: Oh, Michele Bachmann demands to answer a question about Cuba, and says that there shouldn’t be flights from Florida to Cuba because … something. Oh, Cuba’s a state sponsor of terrorism.

Now Huntsman and Santorum are having some sort of spat. Which is kind of like when two unpopular kids at school had a fight: it was entertaining but no one cared who won.

The moderators have totally lost control of the debate here.

10.16pm: Now noted non-homosexual Rick Santorum is asked by a gay member of the military if he’d rewind “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.

Naturally, someone in the audience boos the soldier. Nice. Makes a change from booing people for dying I suppose.

“What we are doing is playing social experimentation with the military,” says Santorum.

“Going forward we would reinstitute that policy if Rick Santorum was president,” says Rick Santorum, because “sex should be kept out of this”. Eh? Isn’t that the point about DADT – it makes an issue out of sexuality when there shouldn’t be one? Loser.

Ana Marie Cox has this to say:

I would respond to Rick Santorum’s egregious misreading of what it means to repeal DADT – he says it grants gay servicemembers “special privileges” – but instead I will just note that every time someone Googles “Santorum” and “gay,” an angel gets its ear pierced.

10.19pm: Oh a question about abortion. That’s a first for these debates, since it’s hard to find the most pin-dancing difference between the candidates.

Anyway, Ron Paul is asked how he can back a rape exception for an abortion ban while also seeking to ban the morning-after pill. As if that’s some huge ideological difference.

Anyway, like Perry, Paul has to defend himself against the notion that he’s running to be the president of Planned Parenthood.

10.22pm: Herman Cain says private healthcare saved his life: “We need to get bureaucrats out of the business of trying to micro-manage healthcare in this country.”

Health insurance companies have no bureaucrats working for them at all, just doctors. And nurses. It is not a Kafkaesque nightmare of paperwork. Oh no.

10.25pm: Ana Marie Cox writes:

Underdog Gary Johnson is performing well in his second debate, the first that people seem to be paying attention to – he has given answers that springboard out of his staunch fiscal libertarianism and avoiding the kind of “operators are standing by” catchphrases that some of the more desperate also-rans cling to (Herb Cain says “9-9-9″ like it is a phone sex line).

Perry and Romney only have eyes for each other; if this were a movie, they’d be headed for a romantic resolution of their testy-but-intrigued relationship. Romney can benefit from Perry’s attacks if he’s able to walk the line between showing some genuine emotion and coming across as peevish. Perry has had some trouble holding onto the equanimity of a front-runner, responding to attacks that he should probably laugh off… This is the mistake of a debate neophyte, and a reminder that Perry has managed to avoid these situations for much of his political career.

10.26pm: Michele Bachmann is asked about her ridiculous claim to have met someone after the last debate who told her that the HPV vaccine caused “mental retardation”. Oh no, says Bachmann, I was just passing on what I was told. Lame.

I’m missing Project Runway to watch this – so what would Michael Kors say about Bachmann’s outfit tonight? “She looks like a transvestite flamenco dancer at a funeral.”*

*Actual Michael Kors quote

10.29pm: Some discussion about healthcare in Texas. Perry says states should be able to come up with the best ideas about how to deliver healthcare. Or in the case of Texas, not deliver any.

10.35pm: Another Perry v Romney set-to: “I think sometimes Americans don’t know which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with,” says Perry, who struggles to explain what he means after that. “We’ll wait until tomorrow to find out which Mitt Romney we’re dealing with.”

“As I said before, nice try,” says Romney, being an arse. “I wrote a book two years ago,” he continues proudly, as if assigning homework.

To be honest, I think Obama would beat Romney in a debate. Perry is less fluent but more direct – and as Al Gore discovered with George Bush, that’s harder to deal with.

On the other hand, Perry’s garbled attack on Romney – literally, something like: “Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of, against, the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment, was it before he was before these social programmes, uh, from the standpoint he was standing” – was teeth-grindingly bad and won’t win him any supporters.

Ana Marie Cox thinks Perry has dropped the ball tonight:

It’s especially sad that Rick Perry goofed up his litany of Romney’s flipflops because if he had just waited until Romney gets back ahead in the polls, someone else will do it for him.

Seriously: Perry’s performance has underwhelmed in the extreme. It’s possible to make all criticism go away if he just repeats the word “jobs” enough, but, still, we’re seeing the weaknesses emerge when a candidate doesn’t have a history of hard campaigns.

10.42pm: It’s the traditional “America! Woo hoo!” stage of a Republican debate.

Repealing Obamacare will make America great again, according to everyone. “President Obama is the new King George the Third,” says Santorum, never knowingly under-hyperbolised.

My colleague Stuart Miller tweets:

Can we get the fact check team onto the Obama = King George III claim please

10.46pm: Gary Johnson makes a great joke!

My next-door neighbour’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this administration.

It brings the house down. “You’ve just made your next-door neighbour’s dogs famous,” says the moderator.

10.55pm: Ah, a convoluted question and answer session about which of the other candidates would each other choose as a running mate. I wrote it all down but then Gary Johnson’s neighbour’s dogs – via my computer – ate it. Bah.

Anyway, Newt Gingrich called it a “Hollywood game” and refused to play, thus being a snob. Romney got mildly embarrased when he said all the candidates would be fine as VP, only to be reminded that he called Perry “unelectable” (which he denied).

That’s it! All over, and the clear winner was … no one? Fox News’s Chris Wallace says Perry and Romney “bickered like a married couple”. A married couple who write books on policy, perhaps.

11.06pm: On Fox, in-house pollster Frank Luntz talks to his focus group of tame Republicans, and Romney seems to have won, although one person said they liked someone called “Mitt Perry”.

Luntz is doing his usual schtick, saying “This is the worst response I have ever seen,” which appears to happen every debate. The focusees all hate Rick Perry’s position on the in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants, on the grounds that it “subsidising” them.

11.11pm: Just got an email from the National Swimming Pool Foundation. Sadly, it’s not connected to the debate at all.

11.16pm: Sean Hannity now interviewing Mitt Romney, who mounts a sterling defence of social security. Apparently, it’s great and is a much cherished national institution.

Now Mitt is banging on about the need to build a fence along the border with Mexico. Does anyone seriously believe that Mitt Romney wants to build an actual fence along the border? If you believe that, as the Duke of Wellington once said, you’ll believe anything.

11.21pm: On the crucial Obama = George III question, my former colleague Toby Manhire tweets all the way from New Zealand:

both Obama and George III succeeded a bloke called George who had a father called George

But then, so did Rick Perry. So Perry is … George IV?

11.40am: So what did we learn tonight? Apart from the fact that one or two members of the audience saw fit to boo a serving member of America’s armed forces, an unusual event.

We learned that Rick Perry can’t debate, and that Mitt Romney is still gliding along. With nine candidates on stage the impact of Romney versus Perry is diluted too much – what we really want to see is the two of them go at it.

The other thing is that Perry’s position on immigration – especially the matter of giving in-state tuition to the children of undocumented state residents – gets bigger and bigger. On many of the conservative blogs there’s talk of the 80/20 test – that it’s foolish to demand a candidate be 100% within the conservative tent, and that 80% is good enough. Under that criteria, does Perry meet the 80% mark? Maybe but he needs to be able to deal with the 20% better.

Other than Gary Johnson, none of the other candidates made much impression. Ron Paul seemed to disappear and get little air time compared with previous debates – cue dark muttering by Paulites about a Fox News conspiracy. Similarly, Bachmann had little to say and did it badly: her non-answer on tax rates was a Bachmannesque word salad.

Given the outrage at the execution of Troy Davis, it was very surprising that there were no questions on capital punishment. But similarly there have been no questions on gun control, gay marriage and almost nothing on abortion, because there’s such a consensus in the GOP that there’s nothing to debate.

Indeed there is so much agreement between the candidates that these debates seem so sterile. Not a word on how the US should respond to the crisis in the euro-zone, for example. But on building a fence on the border with Mexico, the only answer seems to be “How high?”

Much more of this and the debates can be boiled down to candidates giving one word answers to one word questions: Jobs? Texas. Immigration? Wall. Obamacare? Destroy. Taxes? Cut. Government? Shrink. At least that way the debates would only take about five minutes.

Good news: the next debate isn’t until 11 October. Until then, good evening and thank you for reading. ["boop"]

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